The Importance of Being Bernie

Andrew D Ellis
2 min readApr 14, 2020

I have written previously about the real lesson of the 2020 Super Tuesday results. Bernie’s spectacular 2020 flame-out tells us that his near-victory in the 2016 Democratic primaries was more a reflection of anti-Hillary animus than a measure of strong, broad-based support for Bernie.

But, to see how that translates into the 2020 election, we need to go back to August 2017 and, more specifically, to an article written by Danielle Kurtzleben for NPR entitled “Here’s How Many Bernie Sanders Supporters Ultimately Voted For Trump”. Ms. Kurtzleben presents the painful reality of the anti-Hillary/anti-Obama vote. Specifically, 1 in 10 Bernie primary voters voted for Trump and, in three key states, that numeric shift was enough to turn the election.

This year in Michigan, Bernie garned 570,000 votes, nearly equalling his 2016 totals. In Covid-plagued Wisconsin, Bernie was only able to get 270,000 votes. Pennsylvania is scheduled for June so comparisons to 2016 are not possible.

But, if we take Michigan as more illustrative of the Bernie’s vote potential, we can see that, in each of these three swing states, there is the possibility that 1 in 10 2020 Bernie voters could vote again for Trump and easily shift the election.

Ms. Kurtzbelen acknowledges that several factors may have led this small group of Bernie supporters to vote for Trump; there may have been no one single reason. But, her point is inescapable: Bernie supporters numerically provided the margin of victory for Trump in these key states.

If I were advising Joe Biden, I would enlist Bernie Sanders to campaign in these three states, and only these three states, every day, between now and the election. I would beg Bernie to communicate directly with literally everyone of his voters, especially those who voted for Trump, and bring them back to the Democratic fold.

The tragedy of 2016 is that 77,000 Bernie voters elected Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. We know that Hillary was a flawed candidate, we know that sexism played a part in her defeat, and we know that Obama himself had disappointed traditionally Democratic voters in these three states. But, if Joe Biden wants to win, he has to pay attention to the numbers and those numbers show that Bernie voters can deliver the Presidency to the Democrats — if the Democrats are smart enough to see the opportunity and act on it.

Andrew D Ellis